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Hoxter, S. (1964). The Experience of Puberty. J. Child Psychother., 1(2):13-25.

(1964). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 1(2):13-25

The Experience of Puberty

Shirley Hoxter


The specific feature which differentiates the adolescent from people of other ages is the experience of puberty, and much of the adolescent's behaviour in the community may be seen as an external expression of the unconscious anxieties and conflicts aroused by pubertal sexual development. It also appears that some of the community's reactions to adolescents express the anxiety of the adult when faced with the fact that a new generation is attaining sexual maturity. An adolescent girl reflected a widespread attitude when saying “I know what juvenile delinquency means, but I am not sure which word means ‘young person’ and which word means ‘criminal’”. The constant stories of teenage violence and teenage sexuality and the reactions of outraged protest, force upon one the realisation that prominent sections of the adolescent population and of the adult population alike are engaged in the warlike activity of acting out their oedipal rivalry.

This is often conducted in conformity to stereotyped patterns of conflict which enable both parties to avoid experiencing guilt and personal responsibility for the intense feelings of hostility and envy arising from their mutual sexual rivalry. Sometimes the conflict occurs on a vast scale and most of the population is drawn into participating in the melodrama at least vicariously. Or it may initially be conducted as a one-man war. A boy telephoned me late one night saying “I have urgent news to tell you.

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